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Looking behind the scenes - An EU-policy initiative on telemedicine: Why and how?

(03/07/2009) The Commission issued on 30th June 2009 an explanatory document that includes details of the extensive consultation process which led to the 'Communication on telemedicine for the benefit of patients, healthcare systems and society' adopted on 4th November 2008.

This document illustrates with concrete examples how wider deployment of telemedicine can affect individual patients, healthcare systems and society

The telemedicine communication proposed a set of actions aimed at enabling wider deployment of telemedicine services, focusing on three main priorities:

  • building confidence and acceptance of telemedicine services,
  • bringing legal clarity, and
  • facilitating market development.

The newly issued (30th June 2009) document Commission staff working paper expands on certain aspects of the communication, such as the outcome of the extensive consultation phase that was undertaken in preparation of the initiative, the policy context and the relevant legal aspects. It also illustrates with concrete examples how wider deployment of telemedicine can affect individual patients, healthcare systems and society.

The telemedicine communication also received further backing on 26th June 2009, when the European Economic and Social Committee gave strong support to the initiative and encouraged Member States to integrate telemedicine into their health policies.

The telemedicine policy initiative was developed in the general context of European healthcare systems that are under increasing pressure from societal challenges and a European economy that needs, at a critical point in delivering growth and jobs to European citizens, to foster innovative approaches to these major challenges.

It is widely acknowledged that telemedicine, the delivery of healthcare services at a distance using Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), can help address some of these challenges, providing benefits for individual patients, healthcare systems and society, including the European economy.

Member States, realising the potential of telemedicine, support its beneficial deployment. Despite this support and the considerable level of technical maturity of different technologies, the sector is not, however, as well developed as it could be expected. The telemedicine communication aims to help Member States make wider use of telemedicine and reap the benefits thereof.

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